Jo Brooks

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She was known as "The Girl With The Voice You Won't Forget", and was one of the first singers whose voice was heard on post D-Day radio broadcasts in the '40s. Nonetheless it is pretty much just nostalgia…
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She was known as "The Girl With The Voice You Won't Forget", and was one of the first singers whose voice was heard on post D-Day radio broadcasts in the '40s. Nonetheless it is pretty much just nostalgia buffs that might remember Joan Brooks more than half a century later. Not forgetting her would most likely require coming across her name and face in a stack of sheet music from the '40s--in fact, it would be pretty hard to sift through scores from that decade without coming across at least one song that Brooks had a part in. Film fans who like to warm up to a day's viewing by watching a grade "B" western will come across Brooks as a co-star in the 1938 Songs and Saddles. Ironically, this appearance in an oater resulted in some country scholars assuming that Brooks was a country and western singer, and not a very good one at that. "Vocally challenged" is the way one such critic described the Brooks track on Historical Jewels by Various Female Country Artists, a compilation on the Bronco Buster label.

It is doubtful that this critic has heard Brooks at her strongest, on distinctly non-country sides such as "Good Night, Wherever", "Someday, Somewhere" or "If You Were the Only Boy in the World". Brooks was one of the vocalists with the Jolly Coburn Orchestra society band in the '30s and inevitably must have felt like it was a normal part of her day to have a microphone pointed at her. She sang on CBS radio broadcasts backed by outfits such as Archie Bleyer and His Orchestra. She made "soundies," those short musical vignetttes on film that were the precursor to music videos. And as for making records, she was busy enough at this craft to be cutting sides on the final day before the 1942 American Federation of Musicians recording ban was put in place, coming up with a version of "Sweet Dreams" that was definitely not dedicated to the Third Reich.

Brooks was much less of a presence following the end of the second World War, however, and seemed to fade from view completely with the onset of rock and roll. She married Bob Kerr in the '50s, the same NBC executive and record producer whose Kerrradio Album Digest reported disc sales and broadcast activity, greatly enhancing the movement of tunes on the Top 40. In 1964, Kerr and Brooks started their own broadcast outlet, WKER, which was also known in the industry as "Kerrradio." The girl with the unforgettable voice became something of a senior statesman on this station and was especially involved in holiday broadcasts and promotions.